5 Ingredients or Fewer

Sweet Corn Butter From Whitney Wright

August 18, 2020
13 Ratings
Photo by JULIA GARTLAND. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS.
Author Notes

Renaissance woman Whitney Wright may have learned the sorcery of one-ingredient corn butter on the line at Per Se restaurant in New York City, but it's all the delicious ways she uses it that are really genius: Spread it on toast and biscuits as you would butter (without needing to wait for it to soften!), fold it into vegetables in place of cream, blend it into ice creams and milkshakes, and the list goes on. See Whitney’s full set of ideas in the Genius article here.

As Whitney wrote for Gilt Taste back in 2012, “Everyone loves corn’s simple, on-the-cob goodness, but what if I told you that in just three simple moves you can turn corn into something as silky as pastry cream, as flavorful as preserves, and as satisfying as butter? This corn ‘butter’ was a staple on my station at Per Se, where we stirred it into a sweet corn risotto. The magic happens because of the natural starches in the corn (cornstarch, duh); as the starches in the kernels are heated and agitated, they thicken into a smooth, pudding-like spread that tastes like the purest, sweetest corn flavor because that’s all that’s in it…The best part about this technique is that you only really need one ingredient—corn. You can season the corn butter with salt and actual butter if you’re inclined, but it’s not strictly necessary.”

A few tips: Because the sugars in corn begin to convert to starches after harvesting, Whitney mentioned that this is a great use for the ears of corn you bought a few days ago and haven’t gotten around to cooking—they’ll be starchier and will thicken up nicely. Fresher sweet corn will also thicken just fine, but you may want to let it reduce a bit further over low heat, whisking frequently, depending on how thick you’d like it. (Note that it will continue to set and thicken as it cools.)

Recipe adapted slightly from Whitney Wright & Gilt Taste.

Want to hear more about this recipe? On here. Genius Recipes

Watch This Recipe
Sweet Corn Butter From Whitney Wright
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Makes about 3 cups, but scales up or down well
Ingredients
  • 8 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
  • Butter and salt, to taste (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Cut off kernels: Use a chef's knife to cut the kernels from each ear. To wrangle the kernels, arrange towels around the cutting board and cut the corn in the center of the circle. Or balance the ear in the center of a Bundt pan and cut. Or lay the ear on its side and slice the kernels off with a sturdy chef’s knife. 8 ears of corn will yield 4 to 5 cups of kernels. If you’re a go-getter, you can also scrape the back of your knife along the cob to get the juice.
  2. Blend (or juice): Your best move is to juice the kernels. But if you don’t have a juicer, put the kernels in a blender or food processor and buzz them up like crazy—let the blender run on the highest speed (I’m talking the “liquefy” setting) for about 2 minutes. Once the kernels are blended into a smooth puree, pass the puree through a strainer with a rubber spatula. Ta-da! Corn juice.
  3. Whisk and cook: Here’s where the magic happens. Pour the juice into a medium saucepan. Heat the juice over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and the frothy bubbles begin to disappear, about 4 minutes. When the mixture is thick and bubbling, whisk and cook for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat.
  4. Season (optional): Taste it—and look for sweet, smooth, earthy, and buttery. If you want, add a few pinches of salt and pats of butter. The corn butter will keep for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mar Pom
    Mar Pom
  • FischFood
    FischFood
  • Selina
    Selina
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • Julie Prochnow
    Julie Prochnow
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

50 Reviews

Esskayh October 2, 2020
I have been making something similar with frozen corn blended in a VitaMix (no need to strain) after seeing a recipe on a vegan web site a few years ago. Will definitely try with fresh late season corn, but always worked for me with frozen.
 
trvlnsandy September 14, 2020
wouldn't this just be a hydrogenated fat? I don't know the chemistry, so am not really certain, but sounds like it to me. Anyone out there with more knowledge on this feel free to contradict or support.
 
catalinalacruz October 9, 2020
Nope.
"Hydrogenated fats (also called trans-fatty acids) are manufactured fats created during a process called hydrogenation whereby hydrogen units are added to polyunsaturated fatty acids to prevent them from becoming rancid and to keep them solid at room temperature."
From GreenFacts. I googled it.
 
Misch September 13, 2020
Made this tonight with twelve ears of fresh to mildly shriveled corn. Used a centrifugal juicer by loading up the cylinder and lightly inserting the push rod in place before switching it on, working in batches. This yielded about 25oz(!) of juice, and I reduced it on medium low heat with a silicone spatula until slightly thicker than coating the back of a spoon, stirring slowly but constantly.

The result is a golden velvety 14oz of glorious summer sunshine. The color deepened as it cooled, and it’s so freaking delicious and creamy that, if served at a restaurant, I would *never* believe it’s dairy-free. Magic alchemy!

Haven’t yet decided what to do with the pulp. There’s a ton of it, but I like the tacos and corn cakes suggestions. A+ recipe.
 
mamy001 September 7, 2020
Mine was still thin when I looked this morning. I recooked it on low and now it’s perfect! It cooked down to about half of what I had.
 
Mar P. September 5, 2020
That would be atole in Mexico. Really thick atole. And you can get exactly the same with corn starch. Because that's what's in that "corn milk"
 
[email protected] September 1, 2020
I made a wonderful corn soup out of the leftover butter. I simply salted it and added diced potatoes and half & half. It was sublime. With crushed black pepper and fresh bread. Just thinking about it...
 
Susie S. September 1, 2020
I have just made the corn butter and it progressed and ended up exactly as described in the technique, thickening beautifully overnight- and it was so delicious! Pure, intense, corny sweetness. Now thinking of lots of great ways to use it.
 
Janice August 30, 2020
LUCIOUS! Only had two ears to work with. They had been a couple of days in the refrigerator. I ended up with about 3/4 cup. The pulp I dropped into ground turkey and some seasoning for tacos.
 
JP August 28, 2020
I'm making this now. Use the corn cobs for stock for David Lebowitz's Sweet corn Soup.
 
FischFood August 27, 2020
Everything worked as planned. Used fresh corn, but for some reason mine had a somewhat bitter taste to it. It seems that mine’s the exception to the rule however.
 
Catherine September 10, 2020
Mine had a bitter undertone as well
 
Selina August 26, 2020
This is amazing! My corn-loving kids and I tried it and they had a great time smashing the kernels against a sieve with a wooden spoon first. We got a fair bit of juice just from this and the butter from that first batch was velvety smooth and sweet. Then I wisened up and remembered that I had to blend the kernels to get maximum juice. That batch was a little more starchy and thick, but also delicious. The kids had fun squishing kernels to begin with and finally having the butter for their lunches as we cautiously head back to a Pandemic version of school is going to be perfect for lunches. I'm thinking that some fritters for lunch will be a perfect follow-up. Thanks for making us feel like geniuses!
 
Selina August 26, 2020
Also, I keep giggling at the thought of putting corn butter on corn and calling it "meta-corn."
 
Kristen M. August 26, 2020
Thank you all for your feedback and creative suggestions!
 
jimelian August 24, 2020
Corn butter is versatile. We softened a pint of vanilla ice cream (Beckon lactose-free), stirred in about 1/2 cup of cooled corn butter, then refroze. Now we have Sweet Corn Ice Cream that is a great with berries or berry pie - or simply on its own.
 
jimelian August 24, 2020
Corn butter is versatile. We softened a pint of vanilla ice cream (Beckon lactose-free), stirred in about 1/2 cup of cooled corn butter, then refroze. Now we have Sweet Corn Ice Cream that is a great with berries or berry pie - or simply on its own.
 
Susan R. August 26, 2020
This was outstanding! I added a drizzle of molasses to it. Oddly, we thought it tasted a lot like rice pudding ice cream, but either way we will be re-creating this tonight!
 
Julie P. August 23, 2020
Mine did not thicken. Juiced beautifully. Heated and it kind of separated. Very liquidity. Any suggestions. Lots of work for nothing. :(
 
Cathy F. August 23, 2020
I'm sorry your's didn't thicken. Did you use a wire whisk? Did you start with fresh corn on the cob? I had to whisk constantly from when I first added it to the saucepan until the liquid was almost boiling before it thickened. When you refrigerate it it becomes much thicker. I hope this helps.
 
William August 23, 2020
If the corn is young and low in starch it will be watery initially and have to be boiled down to thicken. For the impatient, you can cheat and add a little corn starch but since it just conceals stuff it seems to dilute the flavor a bit.
 
Julie P. August 23, 2020
I think your accurate in what happened with mine. I still have it and will try to boil it down. It Is in the fridge and has lots of water on top now.
 
marilyn Y. August 25, 2020
Julie- i had the same experience , even after cooking and whisking twice as long as indicted and then i was hoping it would thicken over night - but it did not . Sadly it ended up to be more like a corn "sauce" .
 
Kristen M. August 26, 2020
I'm sorry to hear a couple of you had runnier corn butters—William's advice is great. If your corn is super fresh and therefore less-starchy and you want it thicker, you can keep reducing it down over lower heat, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally to make sure it doesn't scorch.
 
Cathy F. September 5, 2020
Whoops, Julie. Mine just did the same thing as yours. Corn was fresh from the farm. I'm going to cook it a bit longer to thicken it. The last time I made it I used older corn and it turned out perfect. Who knew?
 
cosmiccook August 23, 2020
I can't wait for next summer's Silver Corn--I have a champion juicer so it'll do all the straining work for me! Wish I'd come across this recipe sooner!
 
Susan R. August 22, 2020
I’ve got this on the stove now—it looks great! Any ideas about what to do with the leftover pulp?
 
jimelian August 24, 2020
We used half of the leftover pulp to make a quiche. I piled crumbled bacon, halved cherry tomatoes, 1 cup of the corn pulp, sliced scallion, and gruyere cheese in a pre-baked pie shell. Then beat about 1-1/4 cups half-and-half with 4 eggs, salt, and pepper. Poured into the shell, placed on a sheet pan, and baked at 350 for an hour. Delicious! The remainder of our corn pulp will be baked into corn bread as a substitute for canned creamed corn.
 
Jill S. August 21, 2020
So delicious! I made this today. Spread it on a piece of homemade sourdough toast -- fantastic. But the real kicker was adding it to an orzo chicken stew that I make. It turned into something completely different and out of this world. Wow! This is something I'm going to make again and again. Thank you!
 
Cathy F. August 21, 2020
This is amazing! Since I'm having my groceries delivered I used 4 ears of corn that were probably not very fresh. I cut it off, gave it a whiz in the food processor, followed your directions and ended up with amazing corn butter! I imagine it would be even better if I used fresh corn from our local green market. Thanks to Whitney for this great recipe!
 
Cathy F. August 21, 2020
This is amazing! Since I'm having my groceries delivered I used corn that was probably not very fresh. I cut it off, gave it a whiz in the food processor, followed your directions and ended up with amazing corn butter! I imagine it would be even better if I used fresh corn from our local green market. Thanks to Whitney for this great recipe!